ROME — The drastic reduction in people’s mobility because of the COVID-19 pandemic could be an opportunity for moving one’s heart and mind instead — and for finding other ways to be close to and supportive of those in need, the Vatican said.
The tourism industry has been devastated by global and national restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, it said.
The U.N. World Tourism Organization estimates that international tourism could plummet by 60% or even 80 percent over the course of the year, putting millions of jobs at risk.
The tourism sector needs people’s support, said the Vatican’s message for the Sept. 27 celebration of World Tourism Day.
The message, signed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was released by the Vatican Aug. 7.
The theme of the 2020 celebration, which the WTO chose before the pandemic, is tourism and rural development — an area that could still be supported even with some COVID-related restrictions, the cardinal wrote.
It is an invitation to support sustainable tourism in rural areas, small villages or streets and places that are hidden or get overlooked, he said.
These less crowded and less polluted places, when visited responsibly, can foster positive experiences for both travelers and the local community, he added.
Agrotourism, in particular, helps support local family farms, and visitors can learn a new, less hectic way of life in greater harmony with others and nature, he wrote.
Despite ongoing uncertainty about travel restrictions and changes, the cardinal said people dependent on tourism need support from governments, policymakers, pastoral programs and individuals, in promoting responsible and sustainable activities.
“Tourism can become, precisely during this time, a vehicle for closeness,” the cardinal wrote; it can bring people and their hearts closer together by strengthening a “spirit of fraternity among peoples.”